Trump uncharacteristically didn’t swing back at the four-time major winner when NBC’s Mike Tirico mentioned McIlroy’s criticism. Trump did a phone interview with Tirico during a televised charity golf match in Juno Beach, Florida, featuring McIlroy.
“A lot of [pro golfers] are very political, actually,” Trump said, as heard in the clip below. “Some like my politics very much and probably some don’t. I guess the ones that don’t, I don’t get to see as much, but they seem to like it.”
The president then boasted about the country’s economy before the coronavirus outbreak, offered condolences for those who have died and emphasised how much he wants to see the resumption of sports.
“I know so many of the tour players and they’re really fantastic people,” he said of pro golfers. “I can’t think of anyone I don’t like. I can’t say that necessarily in life, but when you meet these tour players, they’re just great people. It’s something very special.”
The top-ranked McIlroy, in an interview last week promoting a match for Covid-19 relief, expressed regret that he had played golf with Trump in 2017, which many fans assumed meant he agreed with the president’s views. He said Trump acted graciously, but said he likely wouldn’t hit the links with him again. He also blasted the president’s response to the pandemic.
“We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicise it and make it a campaign rally and say they we administer the most tests in world like it is a contest — there’s some stuff that’s just terrible,’’ McIlroy said. “It’s not the way a leader should act. And there is a sort of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don’t think he’s showing that — especially in these times.’’
Trump’s interaction with Tirico also was noteworthy because Trump reportedly cheated when they played together.
“Thank you very much, Mike and it was great playing golf with you guys — I remember that very well and we had a good time,” Trump said Sunday, in the clip below.
To which Tirico responded: “I got to see firsthand, you’re a good putter, knock it to kick-in distance often.”
But according to Rick Reilly’s book “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” Tirico once got suckered by Trump. Tirico thought he had hit a great long shot close to the hole, but found his ball in a bunker 50 feet away.
Wrote Reilly: “Afterward, Trump’s caddy told Tirico that his approach shot had actually finished up about ten feet from the hole. ‘Trump threw it into the bunker,’ the caddy said. ‘I watched him do it.’”
In Sunday’s match, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson defeated Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition, which raised millions for Covid-19 relief.